Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the most depressing novels I have ever read. Written in 1949, Orwell depicts an eerie dystopian future – a grotesque totalitarian government modeled by Stalin’s brutal control over Russia. Just imagine if Stalin had obtained use of the technology available today – the ability to monitor the activities of everyone, the ability to control everyone’s actions and their thoughts. That is what Oceania’s all powerful Big Brother does in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Throughout the book are examples of Big Brother’s extreme social and cultural manipulation with brainwashing tactics that strangely parallel the moderate techniques used in our own culture today… like the fact that if the media tells the general public something enough times – even if it is not true – the public eventually becomes complacent and begins to believe it. And when rational people resist being brainwashed and insist on maintaining their own traditional beliefs, they are labeled as having a phobia or uneducated attitude. Forced mediocrity. Forced conformity. Forced unwarranted compassion. And forced acceptance of an amoral society.
And now in 2014, advancements in technology allow surveillance even in the United States as George Orwell only dreamed about. From cell phones that provide a person’s exact location to recording of phone calls for some future government use. And electrical “smart” meters that monitor activities in private residences. Then compare the philosophy of Orwell’s government-inspired language called “newspeak” where words are condensed (ie. texting), language is simplified to eventually diminish human thought and analytical reflection for the purpose of reducing personal intelligence and inducing controlled thinking. After several generations in Orwell’s book, no one remembered the original vocabulary. It became a world of primitive communication. Intentional “dumbing down.” U no what I mean?
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, books no longer exist. Has anyone wondered where at this very moment is that book cloud? What if the cloud bursts? Where are the books then? Welcome to the “kinder gentler” reality of George Orwell’s imaginary new world order. But that is not even the worst of the novel. The model for a good life was love and loyalty only to Big Brother. It was a world where there was absolutely zero trust of another human being. No loyalty, no love, no emotional attachment at all. A cold lonely detached life. A life where all activities… marriage, education, job, children, and social life are determined by the government. A life where nonconformity was a real detriment to ones well being, a life where agreeing with the policies of Big Brother was a matter of life and death.
In the 1960’s this book was already a classic… a novel filled with outrageous scenarios of technological advancement and government surveillance. At that time, this dystopian novel was beyond the comprehension of a society that had not yet reached the computer age. George Orwell was far-sighted beyond belief. But the unimaginable of 65 years ago is the not-so-hard to believe today.
Nineteen Eighty-Four holds the number 13 spot on the Modern Library list of the best 100 novels of all time, and rightly so. Generation after generation readers absorb the plot with bated breath – wanting to believe at least one sole individual could resist succumbing to Big Brother. It is a genuine classic for yesterday, today, and the future.
Rated 5 Stars.
All contents © 2014 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.